Dorset Council prepares for more climate protestors following last month’s disruptive meeting

One of the ‘Grannies for the Future’ who glued their hand to a desk at last month’s Dorset Council meeting

SECURITY will be tight for Thursday’s annual meeting of Dorset Council at County Hall, Dorchester.

The two ‘Grannies for the Future’ who protested by gluing their hands to a table at April’s meeting have been told that they will not be allowed into the meeting under any circumstances.

They have been labelled “anarchists” by council leader Spencer Flower.

Security locks have now been fitted to the council chamber doors and councillors have been issued guidelines to follow should there be any disturbances.

Protest group Extinction Rebellion has tabled a question to this week’s meeting, which claims that Dorset Council is now saying one thing but doing something else with regard to its policy on climate change.

The group is inviting others concerned about the climate to join them for a protest outside County Hall this Thursday (May 12) from 6pm.

Councillor have been advised to be careful about how they engage with climate protestors.

The advice comes after the climate activists claim they were jostled and pushed by Conservative councillors, with one tearing a prepared speech from the hands of one of the protestors as they tried to glue themselves to a desk.

Some described the last meeting as an “affront to democracy” after councillors, who were moved out of the chamber to another room as the protest started, were then not allowed to debate an environmental motion, instead being told to go straight to the vote.

A briefing note ahead of Thursday’s meeting, issued by Dorset Council chief executive Matt Prosser, lays out the procedure which ought to be followed if a disturbance occurs.

It says that, in the first instance, the protestor should be warned and if the disturbance continues they may be removed from the room by security staff.

In the event of a wider disturbance, the guidance suggests adjourning the meeting for as long as necessary, bringing the business to a close or reconvening to a different room.

“A decision whether to call the police will be made by the senior officer in attendance in consultation with the chairman,” said Mr Prosser.

“In the event of a disturbance described above, as soon as the chairman adjourns the meeting, members should leave the room immediately, and should not engage, physically or verbally, with people causing a disturbance.”

The memo to councillors says that access card-controlled locks have now been fitted to the council chamber doors, with councillors and officers using their ID badges to swipe for access.

One of the ‘Grannies for the Future’, Giovanna Lewis, said that she and fellow protestor Annie Webster were contacted by senior council legal officer Jonathan Mair to be told that security staff had been instructed to exclude them from the meeting should they try to attend.

Ms Lewis said they remain concerned about Dorset Council voting to make it easier for developers applying for fossil fuel sites in Dorset.

“Any councillor voting for the expansion of fossil fuels at this time is complicit in accelerating climate change and such actions are now being called ‘murderous’,” she said.

“The UN is calling it madness and so are other bodies.  Such a vote is surely only borne from a place of not understanding fully the very serious consequences of accelerating climate change. 

“Thus, those Dorset councillors are not looking after the safety and wellbeing of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

Extinction Rebellion are also asking if Dorset Council understands that it is “displaying the moral and economic madness”, referred to in a speech by the UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres.

In her question to councillors, Caz Dennett from Extinction Rebellion says: “Three years ago Dorset Council declared ‘we are in a climate emergency’, yet last month passed a motion to support new oil and gas extraction including here in Dorset, and continues to invest £41million of our Dorset Pension Fund in fossil fuels.

“Does Dorset Council understand you are saying one thing and doing another and displaying the moral and economic madness Mr Guterres refers to?”

By Local Democracy Reporter Trevor Bevins

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